Abu Dhabi: Residents say they are nostalgic about the good things which the old souq provided and miss the exotic smells and the bargaining.

The old souq was knocked down more than one year ago and residents say they have mixed feelings of the 'mall culture'.

"People just roaming around the malls without purchasing anything," said one resident.

Haitham Al Ojaily, an Emirati public relations officer, said he misses the old souq with its various Oriental and Asian products, which he said were sold at reasonable prices.

"The souq was a laidback place. You did not have to dress up to go there, but in the malls you have to think twice about what you are wearing. I really miss the old souqs with their unique culture and simplicity," he said.

The PRO said he visits the malls every day and in Ramadan every other day. "I go with my friends to coffee shops in malls, what else is there to do in Abu Dhabi. I rarely go for grocery shopping."

Differing views

Other shoppers however, say that the malls in comparison to the old souq, offer better services, bigger space and more parking spaces, air-conditioning and indoor entertainment.

Masood Hassan, 37 years, an Indian administrator, says he finds shopping in malls too expensive and does not find all the food products he needs. "I hardly go to the malls unless my daughter asks for a specific brand," he said.

Theresa Lagrimas, a mother of two from the Philippines, says, "I go to the mall once a week to release my stress by shopping, drinking coffee or eating at the food court. Ten years ago we were forced to travel to Dubai if we needed anything, now everything is available here.

"My only complaint regarding malls is lack of transport. If you don't have a car it gets rather tedious to find a ride back home, especially after 7 pm."

Janette Fagarang, also from the Philippines, feels that too many malls being built may not be a good idea.

According to the mother of an year-old child, "I found that milk is a dirham more expensive in malls. I find it more convenient to buy my groceries in cheaper markets around my house, even though I love malls here.

"For those who can afford it, everything is available in Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi Mall and now Al Wahda Mall, but I find it far too big for the regular shopper."

South African Sindiswa Manqamane also said that prices in malls are too high, unless there are special offers or discounts.

She enjoys window-shopping during the less busy hours. "I can spend forever just looking around in a mall without necessarily buying anything. I get homesick sometimes and the mall is the closest thing to home with all these people and your spirit is lifted up."

Nu'man Dajani from Palestine, working in government relations, says that he occasionally visits the mall with his family. He prefers to walk around during the week when it is less crowded, but never on weekends because of the huge crowds.

He complains that during weekends or at peak hours during Ramadan, people just bump into each other. "The prices are high and not all the food products are available," he said.

"Some items have 'special offer' written on them, but check out the prices elsewhere," he said.

Your comments

One positive aspect of shopping malls is to provide a good oppurtinity for people to exercise, especially during the blazing heat of summer. Walking campaigns in shopping malls are another way to educate people about the benefits of exercise.
Al Ain,UAE
Posted: October 06, 2007, 03:50

I lived in Abu Dhabi nearly for 23 years and I have been to the old souk hundred of times. It was a pleasure to go around and to do shopping in the old and new souks.
Posted: October 06, 2007, 02:33